Well, I’m in Saint-Nazaire now, which means I’ve left my honeymoon period and my travelling partner behind. So I’ve been flying solo for the past week, from an airbnb to the current empty house my life-saving coordinator found for me. For the first time since leaving America, I’m alone in a foreign country, which has me turning to the internet for comfort
Now, I do attain some level of human interaction with the people I encounter when running errands, and there are also a couple other teaching assistants I’ve met, but other than that I’ve just been filling my day with chores. I get groceries, buy bus tickets, print out documents, sign up for a carte jeune, send emails, write my blog, take pictures, go on long walks, take 45 minutes to prepare for a 5 minute phone call, and so on. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, I guess, if the devil’s just in there knocking together a basketful of invasive, unnecessary thoughts to dump all over my unsuspecting brain. As a classic introvert, I’m always surprised by the extent to which being alone for a few days amplifies this feeling. It’s one thing to choose to be alone with the assurance that I could have someone over if I wanted to, and quite another being by myself with no peers to call on, even if I know that if they were nearby, I wouldn’t invite them over anyway. I’m sure anyone who moves to a new place experiences this, although I do feel an extra layer of unease knowing that any frantic emergency calls that could become necessary won’t go down in English. In school, they didn’t teach the exact French translation of please for the love of god help me I am alone and there is a murderer.
Right about when I start planning potential escape routes is when it’s time to turn to vapid internet content. Just dumb, mindless distraction. I’m talking youtube videos of a drunk woman trying to make a grilled-cheese sandwich, podcasts of people giving intentionally bad advice, pointless tumblr posts, and vine compilations. It all gives my brain enough distraction to please stop dwelling on not knowing what I’m doing with my life and how will I manage a class full of French children and oh god did someone just rattle my doorknob, but not enough depth or complexity to usher in additional sleepless thoughts.
As I’ve been abusing such mind-numbing substances for a few years now, I’ve actually started to grow attached to the people who create them. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but it has some meaning to me now. Since internet-based entertainment is so new, most of the content creators I consume started out just doing it for fun, until it became their careers over years of change and growth. Since their first youtube videos, text posts, or podcast episodes are still available, those of us on the other side can watch a person go through seven years of human development in less than ten minutes. For example, Hannah Hart, the woman making the drunken grilled-cheese I linked to above, has since written two books, hosted a food-network show, and continues to make stupid, albeit better produced, drunk-kitchen videos. Also, over seven years of the three brothers making the bad-advice podcast, two got married, all three had kids, and all three plus their dad ran a joke-turned-serious Dungeons and Dragons podcast that made me cry multiple times despite having never played or really known anything about the game previously. And the ex-viners, well, a lot of them are terrible, but they’re out there doing their thing. The nature of this content is that you see their growth in real time from their own perspectives, as their personal lives are their material. It’s unique from something like a biography or a memoire in that those are all written in hindsight, whereas here we can watch a pre-author announcing online guys i WROTE A BOOK! the very day she finishes it.
This isn’t to say that all of their development is necessarily good or even remotely intellectual--I haven’t actually read Hannah Hart’s books or watched her TV show, so I can’t say--but just being able to fast-forward years of their lives as they develop in totally unexpected ways gives me some comfort regarding my own. To some extent, that’s actually what has inspired this blog, as I’m hoping it’s something I can come back to in a few years and marvel at what I thought my life was/is versus what it will become--for the better, I hope.
So this is what I tell myself when the sun goes down and I’m devouring vapid internet content to make myself feel less alone, here on this continent an ocean away from my closest friends and family. I mean, there is absolutely no reason why I should watch this video of an adorable couple waxing each others’ faces while answering fan questions, but to their own surprise it’s become their jobs, and just look how much they've grown! For all I know our own lives could take us in similarly surprising directions, doing something we never dreamed could support us, at least certainly not from the perspective of this dark and empty French house creaking out ghost stories.
Or, you know, I could totally fail at everything. At least there's the internet.